The Ultimate Antidote to Stop Attracting Bad Freelance Writing Jobs

Carol Tice

The Antidote for Bad Freelance Writing Jobs. freelance writing jobs. It’s a problem I’ve heard from other writers ever since I started this blog and first wrote this post. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s the antidote. Enjoy! —Carol.

Nearly every freelance writer I’ve ever met has had some bad freelance writing jobs.

And for some freelancers, it’s practically a chronic disease fraught with some of the worse offenders:

You know the types:

  • The control freak who wants to instant-message you 24/7.
  • The dreamer who wants the moon, but doesn’t have time to tell you how to fly there and get it for them.
  • The dysfunctional nutjob who doesn’t really know *what* they want…until they see what you wrote. Then they know, that’s not it.
  • The fly-by-night who disappears with your final payment.
  • Last but certainly not least, the super-low payer.

If you’re sick of bad freelance writing jobs, sick-in-the-head clients, and pay rates that make it hard to breathe, here’s the antidote:

The antidote to bad freelance writing jobs

Hopefully, terrible clients are a rarity for you.

But some writers find themselves with a steady stream of bad freelance writing jobs. It’s nothing but bad clients, one after the other. Kind of like one of those nasty colds that keeps coming back.

If you’ve had your fill of bad freelance writing jobs, the antidote includes three elixirs to cure this recurring nightmare. Fortunately, they’re fairly simple. Changing these up should help you start getting freelance writing jobs that pay pro rates and clients that are a pleasure to work with.

1. Looking for gigs in all the wrong places

When you get a lot of loser clients, you are probably spending most of your time fishing for clients in the wrong pools. The shallow, overcrowded ones where rates are low, because 1,000 other writers are there with you.

What types of places do I mean?

Examples include:

  • Upwork (and other intermediary platforms)
  • Craigslist (and other free online job ads)
  • Small-town networking meetings (mostly solopreneurs with no marketing budget)

Instead, you’ll need to hang out in better neighborhoods…

Ways to find better clients include:

  • Qualifying your own prospects and targeting them directly with your marketing
  • Niche/paid job boards
  • More sophisticated in-person marketing (better groups, Skype 1-on-1s, bigger towns)

Personally, I couldn’t seem to find a good client through local networking — until I put on my big-girl networking suit and went into downtown Seattle. All of a sudden, I was meeting editors of top magazines and marketing managers at Fortune 500 companies.

If you’ve got a lot of loser clients and bad freelance writing jobs, make a list of where you found them. Then, don’t fish in those pools anymore. Realize that didn’t pan out for you.

Move up to the bigger, less easily accessible, less fished-out lakes where there are big lunkers nobody’s hooked yet.

2. It’s your smell

No, not the smell under your arms. I cannot smell your B.O. from here. I promise.

I’m talking about the vibe you’re giving off in your marketing.

Let me give you a few examples of messaging I’ve seen recently from freelance writers:

“I would be honored to write for your nonprofit.

“I would be willing to offer you a reduced rate if you’d agree to hire me.

“I don’t have any clips, but I’d appreciate it if you would give me a chance!”

“I would love to write for you.”

Did you catch a whiff of that smell? That’s right — it’s desperation.

It’s not just in marketing emails, either. It’s in your website copy and your LinkedIn profile. It’s in what you tell clients in first meetings, how you negotiate rates (or don’t even try to), and in what you say when you follow up.

  • It shows if you’re not self-confident, and you don’t come in with the attitude that freelance writing is a useful skill and you provide a valuable service. Clients can smell it. And it attracts the ones who pay pennies, just like that guy in the cartoon above is doing.
  • Crummy clients l-o-v-e to connect with insecure writers they can treat like doormats. So if you’re putting out that whole “I’m not sure I can do this” vibe, you are like spilled fruit punch. You’re unappetizing, and you’re only attracting hornets.

By the same token, good clients are looking for self-confident writers who communicate that they have useful expertise and are ready to jump in and do the gig.

If you project that you can deliver, it helps get those better clients interested.

What if you really don’t feel confident? Bulletin: You need to fake it until you do. Confident actions tend to build confidence. Try it out.

3. You’re in over your head

Sometimes, writers are nervous and insecure in their marketing because deep down, they realize they don’t actually know how to do the type of writing this prospect wants. For instance:

  • You’ve never written an e-book for a client before, and suddenly they want one.
  • Or they want you to write a white paper, when you barely know what that is.

Often, freelance writers jump in and start applying for anything and everything, hoping something will stick. This leads to a lot of awkward situations.

It’s hard to project confidence as you explain that you haven’t covered an event and filed same-day before. Or when you’re revealing how little you know about the sorts of retirement plans your client sells.

Instead, try looking for gigs that are a natural fit for you. For instance, I was once a legal secretary, and my dad sold insurance. Guess which industries I pitched?

If you see a niche you really want to get into but don’t know about yet, then it’s time to learn.

Find better freelance writing jobs

If you want to stop attracting crummy clients and bad freelance writing jobs, take my three-part antidote. Look in better places, act like you know what you’re doing, and learn what you need to know.

Sick of attracting bad freelance writing jobs? Let’s discuss on Facebook or LinkedIn.

What kind of freelance writer are you? Tell me, and get a free custom report! GET YOUR REPORT


  1. Beth

    All very pertinent points, Carol. I would like to share another one for the list; selling yourself too low and short can also attract bad clients.

    • Carol Tice

      Indeed — I’ve seen writers post rate sheets with crazy-low rates. That’s one of the most obvious ways to attract bad clients.

  2. Mia Sherwood Landau

    I love this thread, Carol. It’s very timely for me, since I’m in the midst of a big transition in my own mind (where it has to happen first, before it happens in the world) and it sounds like this, “I’m not a commodity, I’m a specialty.”

    I’ve been ghost blogging for years, and lately for lawyers. Content mills for lawyers are a big thing now, since lawyers have no time to blog. Or as it’s called in the profession, “blawg.”

    I’m still a commodity blogging for legal content mills, even though it’s a specialty and I have a law degree. Content mills are content mills. Period. I’m not hired because I’m ME, I’m hired to produce content, and treated accordingly.

    Treating myself as a specialty, a valuable resource and coveted “destination,” as they say in retail, is new for me. Your posts are so encouraging for those of us making this transition, Carol!

    • Carol Tice

      You hit it on the head, Mia — the secret is getting beyond the ‘commodity’ world to clients who want quality/authority content, rather than quantity content, and need specialized knowledge. At one point, I was doing quite a bit of that sort of blawg copy — I’m a former legal secretary.

      I hadn’t heard that phrase before, but it’s so perfect!

  3. Melanie Kissell

    Same holds true for those of us on the freelance copy editing end of things, Carol.

    I may be on the flip side of your [freelance writing] coin, but I’m no exception in the ‘bad client’ experiences. I’ve lumped those adventures together and labeled them my “learning curve.” 😉

    Along with wearing my copy editing hat, I love dipping my toes in the art of rhyme. After reading your post and ensuing comments, I crafted a few stanzas for you and your readers. Enjoy!

    “The Bad Client Blues”

    Bad clients are like a fever
    A pain that burns your buns
    They can drive you up a wall
    You want to scream and run

    They suck up all your energy
    They intend to ruin your days
    Trapped with a horrible client
    Is like a scary inescapable maze

    Nothing you offer will please them
    Jumping through hoops won’t work
    You behave like a true professional
    In turn, they treat you like a jerk

    If only you were a bona fide witch
    And held the powers to cast a spell
    That garners respect and proper pay
    And obliterates the clients from hell

    • Tara

      Melanie, I adore your website. It’s so beautiful and full of fun!

    • Melanie Kissell

      SO sweet of you to say that, Tara. Many thanks! 🙂

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